They came from outer space--and you can have one! Genuine meteorites are now on sale in the Space Weather Store.
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PERIGEE "SUPER MOON" ON MAY 5-6: Get ready for moonlight! The full Moon of May 5-6, 2012, is a perigee moon, as much as 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other full moons of 2012. [video] [full story]
ETA AQUARID METEOR UPDATE: The eta Aquarid meteor shower, due to peak on May 5-6, is already underway. Cameras in NASA's All-Sky Fireball Network have picked up more than a dozen eta-fireballs this week, including seven last night alone. NASA astronomer Bill Cooke prepared this diagram showing the orbits of the fireballs detected so far:
"The purple line traces the orbit of Halley's Comet, source of the eta Aquarids," says Cooke. "Blue lines are orbits of the individual fireballs determined from simultaneous observations by multiple cameras." A statistical analysis of the data shows that the fireballs hit Earth's atmosphere traveling about 66 km/s (139,000 mph) and disintegrated about 90 km (52 mi) above Earth's surface.
Forecasters expect the shower to peak this weekend; the best time to look is during the hours before sunrise on Saturday, May 5th. (Note: Last night's flurry of fireball activity suggests the shower may be peaking early, making May 5th the date to watch rather than May 6th as we earlier suggested.) Because the shower's radiant is located below the celestial equator, southern hemisphere observers are favored, but even northerners should be able to see a few eta Aquarids. Super-bright moonlight will cap the meteor rate at about 30 per hour.
LISTEN! Radar signals penetrate moonlight with ease. Tune into Space Weather Radio for live echoes from eta Aquarids passing over the US Air Force Space Surveillance Radar in Texas.
VENUS IS NOT ALONE: When the sun sets tonight, go outside and look west. The Evening Star, Venus, is not alone. Second-magnitude star El Nath is less than a degree away. Marek Nikodem photographed the pair on May 2nd from the countryside near Niedźwiady, Poland:
The planet and the star are converging. At closest approach on May 6th, they will be 0.8 degrees apart, a gap so small you can hide it behind the outstreched tip of your index finger.
If you have a telescope, point it at Venus. The planet is at its brightest for all of 2012, and backyard optics easily resolve it into a 27% crescent. Swing over to El Nath for a different experience. The star, which lies 130 light years away, is a pinprick of light unresolved by the most powerful telescopes on Earth.
more images: from John Chumack of Dayton, Ohio; from Gene Taylor near Skyline Arch in Arches National Park, Utah; from Andrea Aletti of Varese, Italy; from Luis Argerich of Buenos Aires, Argentina; from Mariusz Rudziński of Mirostowice Dolne, Poland; from Carlos Rosatti of San Jose, Uruguay;